Ness Notes: Thursday Nov 5

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." 

The Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to postpone the fall season because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic back on Aug 8 but 'reversed field' on Sep 25 by announcing that a season would be played, one which would feature a six-game, conference-only schedule. All 12 MAC schools opened play last night with defending East Division champion Miami-Ohio (school won its first MAC championship since 2013 in 2019) and defending West Division champion Central Michigan both winning. Ball St led Miami 21-10 but Miami scored the next 21 points. The game was tied late at 31-all, when Miami intercepted Ball St deep in Cardinals' territory and shunned a FG to score on a two-yard TD run with 10 seconds left for a 38-31 victory. Miami has now won NINE straight at home and has gone 24-9 in its last 33 league games. Ohio opened the second half of its game at Central Michigan with a 93-yard KO return TD to go up 27-20 but the Bobcats NEVER scored again, as the Chippewas won 30-27. MACtion returns next week with THREE games on Tuesday and then three more on Wednesday. It's an uneventful Thursday night in CFB, as 0-2 Utah St is at 2-0 Nevada and 1-1 Wyoming is at 0-1 Colorado St in MWC play.

NFL Week 9 opens: The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers both went 13-3 and met in the NFC championship game in 2019. The result was a DOMINATING San Francisco win, as the 49ers led 27-0 at the half and cruised to a 37-20. It's a rematch of that contest in this Week 9 Thursday Night game, as the 49ers again welcome the Packers to Levi's Stadium (8:15 ET on FOX/NFL Network). The 49ers opened 2-3, then followed with B2B wins (24-16 at home against the Rams and 33-6 at the Pats), but then lost 37-27 at Seattle last Sunday. The 4-4 Niners find themselves in last-place in the NFL's toughest division, behind the 6-1 Seahawks, 5-2 Cards and 5-3 Rams. The Packers sprinted to a 4-0 SU & ATS start but after a bye (Week 5), have sandwiched a 35-20 Week 7 win at Houston with a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay (Week 6) and a 28-22 home loss to Minnesota (Week 8). Green Bay is 5-2 and just a half-game up on the Bears in the NFC North. The 49ers enter with key players injured plus this week, have lost more players to COVID issues. The Packers are now favored by 7 1/2-points and the over/under is 48 1/2..

CFB Weekend: THREE ranked teams are in action on Friday, with No. 11 Miami-Fl (5-1) at NC State (4-2) and No. 9 BYU (7-0) visiting No. 21 Boise St (2-0). "We feel good to be at this part of the season and to be at 5-1," Miami coach Manny Diaz said. "It promises to be an exciting and challenging stretch run." The Hurricanes only loss has been at No. 1 Clemson, Both schools are coming off a bye week and for NC State, this marks its FOURTH game against a ranked opponent this season, but FIRST at home. The Wolfpack have lost at then-No. 20 Va Tech, won at then-No. 24 Pitts and lost at then-No. 14 No Carolina. However, NEITHER of those three schools are currently ranked. Miami is favored by 10 1/2points. There just could be some scoring in the BYU/Boise St game, as Boise State has averaged 45.5 PPG (third in the nation) and 454.5 YPG (22nd) over its two first games, while BYU is averaging 44.4 PPG (7th) and 527.7 YPG yards (6th). The Cougars have topped 40 points in SIX of their first seven games for the first time in program history. BYU's 7-0 start is its first since 2001 and its No. 9 ranking places the school inside the AP top-10 for the first time since November 7, 2009. BYU is favored by three points and the over/under line is 61.

The BYU and Boise St contest is the first of FOUR matchups featuring ranked opponents. The marquee matchup (and the Game of the CFB 2020 season to-date) is No. 1 Clemson (7-0) at No. 4 Notre Dame (6-0). You may have heard that Trevor Lawrence will NOT play, meaning freshman D.J. Uiagalelei will line up under center for the Tigers for the second straight Saturday. He passed for 342 yards and two TDs plus ran for a third, as Clemson came back from a 28-7 halftime deficit to beat Boston College 34-28 (Tigers were favored by 26 1/2-points). Clemson has won 28 consecutive games against ACC opponents and 40 straight regular season games, the second-longest streak of all-time. Notre Dame is off a less-than-impressive win as well, winning 31-13 at Ga Tech as a three-TD road favorite. The Irish will welcome the Tigers to South Bend owning a 12-game winning streak, the longest active among FBS teams. Clemson is favored by 5 1/2-points .

The final two games between ranked teams are No. 5 Georgia (4-1) and No. 8 Florida (3-1) meeting Jacksonville in what's billed as "The World's Largest Cocktail Party" and No. 13 Indiana (2-0) hosting No. 23 Michigan (1-1).The two SEC East schools square off as top-10 teams for the THIRD consecutive season, with Georgia (which owns a 52-43-2 series lead) looking for its FOURTH straight win in the series. "It doesn't clinch it or seal anything, but whoever wins this game certainly is putting themselves in the driver's seat to get to Atlanta," Florida head coach Dan Mullen said (Georgia is seeking a fourth straight SEC title). Georgia is favored by 3 1/2-points. Indiana is 2-0, giving the school its best start in the Big Ten since 1991. Indiana's No. 13 ranking is the school's highest since it was ranked 11th back in 1987. The Hoosiers shocked then-No. 7 Penn St 36-35 in OT at home to open the season and then followed with a 37-21 road win at Rutgers. Meanwhile, Michigan is coming off a disappointing 27-24 home loss to rival Michigan State, further putting heat on sixth-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have gone 8-13 against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin during Harbaugh's five-plus year tenure. Think Michigan fans and alumni are loving their $7 million a year (plus) head coach these days? However, let me point out that Michigan hasn't lost to Indiana since 1987. The Wolverines are a three-point road favorite.

In 16 meetings so far this season between ranked opponents, the higher ranked team has gone 15-1 SU and 14-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). Will that trend continue with this weekend's four such matchups? As documented here each week, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results. Ranked teams did win 14 of 18 such matchups last weekend but were still a highly unimpressive 10-8 ATS. The Y-T-D tally sits as such; ranked teams are 68-22 (.756) SU when taking on an unranked opponent but remain a 'money-burning' 36-53-1 (.404) ATS. Will this trend continue throughout the 2020 season? So far, we are still waiting for that "regression to the mean."

There are 14 games this weekend in which ranked teams take on unranked opponents, including three contests involving top-10 teams. No. 3 Ohio St is home to Rutgers (Buckeyes are favored by 38 points), No. 6 Cincinnati hosts Houston seeking an 18th straight home win (Bearcats are favored by 13 1/2-points) and No. 7 Texas A&M is at South Carolina (Aggies are favored by 10 points). The Pac 12 becomes the last of CFB's 10 conferences to take the field in 2020. No. 12 Oregon is home to Stanford (Ducks are favored by eight points) and No. 20 USC hosts Arizona St (Trojans are favored by 11 points).

Good luck...Larry

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